My New Year’s Toast

Bless the broken hearted. Bless the Beatles. Bless the beasts and the children.

Always nice to curl up with a good holiday on a cold night. Bam-bam-bam … Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s come and go. They are our warmest blankets. They are the band-aids of the soul.

Now we rip off the band-aid. Ouch.

Guess everything comes and goes. Childhood, college, the lusty overwhelming buzz of fresh love. Was pondering this the other day, and wondered: If love is so easy and wonderful, why is marriage so hard?  

The short answer: Nobody knows.

I love the holidays (it may show a little). The season is rich in relationships, false hopes, romance, bad weather, disappointment, chronic debt, unbridled joy and the smells coming from the kitchen.

Was thinking the other day that I could write a one-act play based on the various smells coming from a family oven from Thanksgiving through New Year’s — what the recipes represent, the resonance of a favorite dish, the right way to stuff flounder.

More than anything, it would deal with what goes into something as simple as a baked pie (duty, resources, experience, nutmeg and a desire to please others).

And now we begin to pack it all up, the ornaments, the hangovers, the memories. The blessings, too, more evident during the holidays than any other time of year.

My New Year’s toast: Bless the broken hearted. Bless the Beatles. Bless the beasts and the children (Karen Carpenter’s most underrated song).

Anybody want to help us put the holiday stuff away? Oh, come on. Only takes 11 days.

All cultures, all religions, have some central festivus they celebrate. For Christians, it all pretty much ends today, on Jan. 2. Now we box up the holidays and start all over again. Good for us for moving on.

Poet Dana Gioia called New Year’s the most mundane and human holiday, the “tiny fissure where the future drips.”

I knew I felt something.

Just ahead: Great winter sunsets … January white sales … the NFL playoffs. Cold storms add a fine sheen to a winter’s day … steamy breath, snow on the ridge, rain on a window pane.

Oddest thing: Two days after Christmas, after a good and blustery storm, White Fang and I got trapped in a rainbow.

It hovered in a vale of mist and hyper-logic, just above the 7-Eleven. Before we knew it, we were right in the middle of the damned thing.

Got rainbow all over my new sweatshirt, and White Fang kept chomping at it, the way she chomps on all the things she loves (puddles, leftover salmon, my left arm).

So that’s how we wound up lost in this phantom rainbow. Can’t recommend it enough. Follow me. More phantom rainbows ahead in 2021. We’ll take selfies.

In a new year, I don’t make resolutions. I prefer visions and hallucinations.

I also make lists: Hiking trails and pizzerias I want to try, maybe a few new stews. Life is anticipation, so I battle the January doldrums with these modest to-do lists.

Listen, January can be great. Deer tracks in the snow. Thick soups and fat biographies. Music (Haydn, Prine, Laura Nyro).

In my lifetime, no new year has arrived with so many expectations, as if flipping a calendar page will suddenly make everything better.

Bad times do not follow the seasons.

Yet, like life, a new year represents the triumph of rainbows over reason.

Anybody want to help us put the holiday stuff away? Oh, come on. Only takes 11 days. My son Smartacus might make nachos (no promises though).

By tradition, Smartacus and I always forget to put at least one item away – a reindeer towel, a door decoration, a Santa butter knife. For us, it’s inevitable that we extend the holidays with this one little oversight.

I suppose story-tellers have always been smitten with Christmas: Charles Dickens, Charles Schulz, Dr. Seuss (our family physician). The holidays often led to their very best work.

They find in the season a small flicker of the human spirit, amid the disappointment and obligations that often dog us.

Makes me wish I were a deeper person. Makes me wish I had their grasp of joy vs.  misery.

Instead, I wallow in my foolish elfish tendencies. I am, for instance, the only one left in my family who still believes in Santa.

I even send Santa thank you notes:

Dear Fat Man, just a quick Candygram to let you know you really knocked it out of the park this year.

Hope you were watching when my daughter Rapunzel stood up, held up a pair of new PJs and squealed:

“These are the tie-dyed pants my quarantined heart always dreamed of!!!”

Never mind the syntax. Point is: You make Christmas look so easy.

Of course, those new jeans you brought don’t fit me, but do jeans ever fit middle-aged dads?

Note to elves: More Spandex in my waist line. More bourbon in my bourbon.

As you know, Santa, when I was young, I fell face first into a life of modest good luck and failed opportunities. I’ve always had a soft spot for underdogs and girls with freckles. I failed at journalism and trifectas. Couldn’t fix a car to save my life.

But, thanks to you, I always managed a solid Christmas.

As you also know, I cannot resist temptation. Since the age of 2, I have been powerless over impulse. Not sure I was mothered very well, to tell the truth.

For instance, if I’m listening to the Pentatonix, and the FedEx gal knocks on the door, I always propose marriage. I don’t even know her name, her Zodiac sign, her true feelings for me or the Pentatonix, but when the moment is right, I just go with it.

Well, for me, the moment is always right. I fall in love too fast, without looking in both directions, to see if a truck is coming.

As a result, I am currently engaged to seven FedEx delivery gals, and one toad-looking dude from UPS whom I mistook for one (it was the way he walked more than anything).

The big question, do I marry them all at once, or individually?

Love is fleeting, Santa. As is Christmas, as is life. So I’d like to make the most of this current situation.

By the way, Santa, let me ask: If love is so easy and wonderful, why is marriage so damn hard?  

Any tips would be appreciated.

Love, Erskine

Counting the days till we can Happy Hour Hike the Rose Bowl, Los Liones in the Palisades and other SoCal trails. Please keep an eye on the website for schedules. And please buy a book, or some gin glasses, if you already haven’t. Keeps this shaky little enterprise afloat. Many thanks. Info: chriserskinela.com/

9 thoughts on “My New Year’s Toast

  1. Don’t waste your love on the Fed Ex girls. Hold out for Angie. She’s bound to come around. 2021 is the year many good things will happen. It’s God’s way of balancing out last year. Hang in there. Grandbaby and (I predict) more lovely romance are in your future this year. And 🌈 too!

  2. You’re so funny. Always make me laugh! My birthday was 2 days after Christmas so even though I wasn’t enveloped in a rainbow, it was still festive and fun. Wishing I had minions, elves or Oompa Loompas to help pack Christmas up, but the college daughter will do nicely. My senior high schooler only has one hand available as her other constantly clutches her phone. Happy New Year to you and your family. You have bright horizons ahead in 2021 Chris! And thanks for steering us through 2020. I love these twice weekly posts. I did buy 2 books 😉

  3. It’s not intentional but inevitable, that we always miss one Christmas item when packing up post holiday. That said, we do sort through all the Christmas cards and choose a “best card” that we then stick on the refrigerator until next Christmas. Kind of keeps the holiday spirit with us year round.

  4. You left out this one, but I’m sure you’re familiar with it:
    “Oh chosen love, oh frozen love,
    Oh tangle of matter and ghost,
    Oh darling of angels, demons and saints
    And the whole broken hearted host
    Gentle this soul … Gentle this soul.

    Happy New Year Erskine XO

  5. I bought your cap! I wish you’d share in the shipping charge (almost as much as the cap) but such is the vagaries of commerce. No freebies even for the benefit of honorable missionaries like you!
    I’m sure you remember Soupy Sales’ silly, joyous TV show! It too had a White Fang (just a puppet paw that would regularly intrude on the 16” TV screen).
    But no Rainbows!
    You’re blessed; as we are by your wonderful wanderings about the journey of life. Happy Healthy 2021 Chris!

  6. Did you make the soup in the photo? Looks delicious. I agree with you about Bless the Beasts and the Children. Great Carpenters song. Weren’t they all?

  7. Chris, Chris, you take us on a dizzying stream of conscience roller coaster of thrills and chills, ups and downs! You take a Scrabble bag of words and weave a therapy blanket around us. Karen Carpenter had a voice like velvet and I concur about the song. Rainbows and a forgotten decoration, just a way of hanging on to the Season. “The Past is never dead,it’s not even past.” William Faulkner

  8. Laura Nyro, another gorgeous voice stilled too soon. Prompted me to listen to her and Karen this morning. By the by, saw an episode with Angie Dickensen on “Perry Mason “ a couple of weeks ago. Does she know you’re engaged to all these other women? What a heartbreaker! How fickle are men! Fie!Fie! Alas and alack! (Been reading some Shakespeare to my Mom!)

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